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GROUP A MATCH REVIEW: PSG Handball went top of group after Thierry Omeyer and Mikkel Hansen inspired them to an emphatic home win over La Rioja


Emerging French giants Paris Saint-Germain Handball confirmed their status of a rising force in European club handball after veteran goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer and Danish left back Mikkel Hansen led them to an impressive win over Spanish rivals Naturhouse La Rioja.

Omeyer pulled off one superb save after another while Hansen found the back of the net as effortlessly as he dished out assists to his teammates, who graciously capitalised on his versatility to delight PSG fans on home court.

La Rioja tried as hard as they could to keep the hosts at bay but had no answer for PSG’s quick and imaginative transition of the ball in attack, while they seemed to be hitting a wall at the other end as Omeyer racked up 15 saves in the first half alone.

Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) 32:25 (18:9)

The first ever meeting between these two sides produced one-way traffic from start to finish as PSG took the game by the scruff of the neck, racing into a 6:2 lead in the opening seven minutes.

Swede Philip Stenmalm kept the visitors barely afloat in the early stages as he scored his team’s opening four goals, but his efforts were insufficient to stop the mean French machine from steamrolling to victory in front of their passionate fans.

La Rioja took their first time-out after Croatian right back Marko Kopljar fired PSG into a 16:8 lead but it could not turn the tide as Omeyer, who will celebrate his 38th birthday next month, saved two successive penalties to mesmerise the visitors and propel the home team to a nine-goal halftime lead.

With Mikkel Hansen producing another mature performance, unleashing unstoppable thunderbolts as masterfully as he sprayed passes to the wings and pivots, PSG carved out a 12-goal advantage in the second half before their coach Philippe Gardent threw in some role players to give his starters a well-deserved rest.

The Spanish outfit duly took full advantage to reduce the deficit to 29:23 with six minutes left, but the damage had already been done and Paris Saint-Germain Handball cruised to their third straight win which lifted them to the top of a finely balanced group.

PSG will have a chance to make it four out of four when they visit Meshkov Brest in the next round while La Rioja face a crunch home game against HC PPD Zagreb as both sides continue their quest to reach the Last 16.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br